Sri Lanka downed Afghanistan in a crunch Super 4 showdown thriller by 4,wickets with 5 balls to spare scoring 179 for 6 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium yesterday.
In a showdown that the ominous Afghans had threatened on a blitzkrieg 45-ball 84 by Rahmanullah Gurbaz, it came to the wire as the fifth-wicket pair of Dhanushka Gunathilaka 33 off 20 and Bhanuka Rajapaksa 31 off 14 blazed their way in the death overs closing on a gap of 55 required off 31 for victory. After the duo had added 32 off 15 Wanindu Hasaranga joined Rajapaksa in the final charge.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa exited after the job had been virtually accomplished with just 2 needed for victory attempting a hurrah extravagant shot. Hasaranga smashed 3 boundaries for 16 off 18 with Chamika Karunaratne applying the finishing touches with an on driven boundary remaining unbeaten on 5. The centre piece to it was the Gunathilaka-Rajapaksa onslaught. Gunathilaka hammered the 12th over in the style of 2, 6 and 4 for 14 runs while Rajapaksa brought the contest to boiling point smashing Naveen for two boundaries and a straight driven six off the 16th over.
Overall it was a brilliant job by the Lankans in applying the brakes when Gurbaz threatened to take the game away from them as Afghanistan looked well set for a score of 200 when they were on 139 for 1 off 15.2 overs. But Asitha Fernando in only his second T20 international accounted for the prize wicket of Gurbaz whom he had caught at mid-wicket off his third delivery of the 16th over. From that point the Lankan bowlers did a great job in restricting Afghanistan to 175 off 20 overs. Dilshan Madushanka was the pick of the Lankan bowlers with 2 for 37.
In the final countdown Sri Lankan skipper Dasun Shanaka’s gamble of opting to chase after winning the toss paid. It was Afghanistan’s first loss after posting a 170 plus total. Sri Lanka got the ideal start from openers Kusal Mendis 36 off 19 (3×6, 2×4) and Pathum Nissanka 33 off 28 (3×4, 1×4). Charith Asalanka fell for 8 off 14 (2×4) while Shanaka made 10 off 9 with a boundary. Rajapaksa’s14-ball knock contained 4 boundaries and a six and Gunathilaka’s 20-ball innings 2 sixes and 2 boundaries.
However, Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz carried away the Player of the Match award for his blitzkrieg decorated in 6 sixes and 4 boundaries. CHIEF SCORES: Afghanistan 175/6 (20 Overs) (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 84, Ibrahim Zadran 40, Najibullah Zadran 17, Dilshan Madushanka 2/37, Maheesh Theekshana 1/29, Asitha Fernando 1/34) Sri Lanka 179/6 (19.1 Overs) (Kusal Mendis 36, Pathum Nissanka 33, Dhanushka Gunathilaka 33, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 31, Wanindu Hasaranga n.o. 16,.Dasun Shanaka 10, Chamika Karunaratne n.o. 5, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 2/30,.Naveen-ul-Haq 2/40, Mohammad Nabi 1/34).